I have air vents and an I-beam right when you walk into my basement. My family is tall so I am not looking to box it like I normally would. I am going to hit everything with white paint. Problem is on the outer walls how do you "connect" the drywall to the I-beam and vent that run across?


Interesting problem. If you've got metal vent, and a steel I-Beam, those will definitely move at different rates than drywall on wood framing. Sounds like you need something flexible for the transition. What about using self-adhering flexible membrane flashing material as (at least) part of the solution?

I know you can get flex membrane flashing with a white surface, but I don't know if any manufacturers offer a paintable product.

Also, I'm not sure how to make a smooth transition from the membrane to drywall, but it might be possible with some careful mudding. I haven't actually used membrane for this solution, but I am a big fan of the product for other purposes. Here's a discussion article that mentions many types.

Let us know what you end up doing?

  • What does "move at different rates" mean? Pro tip: if the I-beam in your house is moving, get out.. don't worry about the paint. – gregmac Aug 19 '13 at 4:16
  • @gregmac - OP stated the I-beam and ductwork exist when one walks into the basement. Presumably this means they disappear when one walks out of the basement. Obviously they come and go :) – mike Aug 19 '13 at 4:57
  • I-beams, like most things, expand and contract with thermal changes. So does metal ductwork. Porous materials, like wood and perhaps even drywall, also swell and shrink with changing humidity. In short, everything moves. – jbbenni Aug 19 '13 at 11:35
  • Perhaps the best solution for the transition is to simply use a small molding around the drywall edges of the I-beam and ductwork. Caulk the molding if needed. – jbbenni Aug 19 '13 at 11:38

I'm not sure if I'm following all the details, but it sounds like one question is how do you finish the drywall around the I-beam where it will enter the sheetrock.

I did that in my basement, and a bit of caulk was all it needed between the sheetrock and metal. FWIW, consider painting the I-beam a bold color. Make it part of the "look".

As for the air vents, I'm not sure quite how that fits into the big picture. Some drawings/photos may help here.

  • I will add some pictures tomorrow. Caulking might work. It will certainly be a tough cut to get close. – DMoore Aug 19 '13 at 6:07

Why can't you box it in and use 1/4" plywood for the bottom of the box? That would only lower the ceiling height 1/4", which is not that much. (Plus if you're going to bump your head, better to be on some plywood and drywall than a steel beam.)

  • I am fine with doing that but I am worried that the beam by itself will look better everywhere except where it meets the drywall. Painted a cool looking color that contrasts I think they will look cool. I thought about plywood but think even after painting it will look cheap. – DMoore Aug 19 '13 at 17:55

Normally ducting and I-beam are not more than two feet wide combined. If the width is 24 inches or less then frame vertically from ceiling where the bottom of frame-wall is flush with the bottom of I-beam and ducting. Fasten sheet rock to the bottom of the drop walls on each side of the ducting. This way the thickness of the drywall will be the only additional drop.


Extra deep U-channel affixed more or less rigidly to the vent and beam, with the dry wall free floating in the channel. Don't create a paint-seal between the drywall and the U-channel or it'll look uglier than whatever when it shifts over time, so cut in with at least a coat of primer on the dry wall before assembly.

You will likely need a forklift for this project, likely a big fork lift.

  • 1
    I'm sorry, a FORKLIFT? This is in the dude's basement.. I'm.. at a loss here... – gregmac Aug 19 '13 at 4:15
  • For some, even simple tasks require a forklift, if not a big forklift. – mike Aug 19 '13 at 4:54

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